It is a bit intimidating to start all over at page 1, but as we learned from The Wolves of St. Peter’s, the best way to prevent fear of the blank computer screen is by thoroughly getting to know our story first. For weeks now, we have been trading ideas, books, and websites, immersing ourselves in the intrigues of Renaissance Venice as we cook up some delectable plots and betrayals of our own. This is the fun part for us - permission to spend our days daydreaming and playing make-believe.
But as much as we’re already enjoying this new book, we’re afraid Francesco isn’t. The intervening year between stories hasn’t been much fun for Francesco, and he’s clearly going through some kind of Scandinavian Gothic/Kurt Wallander/very depressed phase. A lot happened in those final days in Rome, and although Francesco solved the murder of the Marigold Madonna, he still hears the wolves howling in his dreams. Post-traumatic stress we’re pretty sure, and although it must have been epidemic in early 16th-century Italy, no one had a name for it.
And it doesn’t appear Francesco’s melancholia will be lifting any time soon. Francesco chose Venice with the idea of lying low for a while, only to have Pope Julius II declare war on the Venetian Republic. The Pope is only trying to expand Rome’s influence, but Francesco has his reasons for thinking it could be personal. Now his gondolier has found a young woman on the canal steps with a suicide note pinned to her once lovely dress. And any day now, another young woman’s body is going to appear, and Francesco is going to wonder who or what is driving young women to suicide – if it is suicide at all.
But we really do hate to see Francesco so miserable and therefore have to devise some ways to alleviate his suffering. Before everything went down in Rome, he had such a fun if somewhat reckless side to him we miss. (Truth is we both have a bit of a crush on Francesco, and if ever we part ways as coauthors, Francesco will be to blame.) Can we throw him a party? That should cheer him up, and it will be Carnival season after all. We could hold it at the convent of San Zaccaria. As Francesco is soon to discover, not all convents are for praying – some are for entertaining young gentlemen like himself. At the very least, we should find him some new friends. We’re glad the three-legged chicken decided to stick around - and it’s probably time to give him a name. Thanks to Wikipedia, we know a chicken can live for 10 years – the world record is 16 – so it’s possible he could be Francesco’s sidekick for a good many adventures to come.
Yes, this really is the fun part. And luckily for us, it can’t be rushed. Through this process, the characters come alive: revealing their weaknesses and strengths; what they read, believe, eat, and drink; who they love, and who they’d love to murder…. Really, we only need to give our characters life, and they write the story for us. Often shaping it in ways that catch us completely by surprise, they leave us scrambling to keep one step ahead, praying we’ll be there before our detective backs himself into a foggy, cold Venetian corner and becomes the killer’s next victim….
It is winter here too in Ontario, but already we are looking forward to summer nights sitting in cafés and on rooftop terraces, a bottle of wine between us, having conversations that go something like this:
“We could kill her.” “We can’t do that!” “Why not? It’s not like her husband will care. And if Francesco ever finds out….”
If you should overhear us, please don’t call the police. Instead, join us for a glass of wine - because this time, Francesco is going to need all the help he can get.
For those who missed it, be sure to check out the review by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of The Wolves of St. Peter’s, the first installment in our Francesco Angeli series.
BOOKS OF NOTE: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood, who left his marketing job at Microsoft to start Room to Read, a charity that since 2000 has built 12,000 libraries in the developing world. An inspiring read. Don’t forget to make a donation!